Facts & Myths

Despite being a chronic nuisance and public health hazard, gas powered leaf blowers are becoming more common and more powerful. The toxic exhaust, dangerous dust and extreme noise they create is harmful to everyone – especially children and seniors. Bottom line: gas powered leaf blowers may seem like a temporary annoyance but they are a serious threat to public health and the environment.

The facts are clear

  1. The EPA has shown that leaf blowers and other gas powered lawn and garden equipment expose workers and the public to high levels of toxic and carcinogenic emissions such as benzene, butadiene, formaldehyde and fine particulates.
  2. Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the dust and toxic emissions created by gas blowers.
  3. The American Lung Association, American Heart Association,  World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention all report on the dangerous health risks associated with exposure to these types of emissions including cancer, lung disease, respiratory illnesses and dementia. 
  4. Gas blowers produce high levels of noise which have been shown to pose serious health risks including hearing loss, hypertension and productivity loss.
  5. Testing shows that gas powered leaf blowers produce lower frequency noise which travels farther and impacts more people and households than battery electric leaf blowers.
  6. The winds generated by blowers destroy habitats for beneficial insects and deplete topsoil.
  7. Gas blower manufacturers recommend safe distances of 50 feet between leaf blowers and pedestrians. This is nearly impossible to establish in urban environments.
  8. Gas powered leaf blowers burn fossil fuels.  Emissions from burning fossil fuels are the primary cause of climate change.  The US Department Of Energy estimates that 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline are consumed every year to maintain our lawns and gardens, and much of that is spilled.

The myths don’t hold up

  1. “Portland already has rules regarding leaf blowers.”
    The existing noise ordinance is unenforced and ineffective at regulating leaf blower use.
  2. “Because gas leaf blowers are powerful they do the job quickly so they don’t pollute much.”
    The California Air Resources Board states that, for the best-selling commercial leaf blower, one hour of operation emits smog-forming pollution comparable to driving a 2016 Toyota Camry about 1100 miles, and that leaf blowers and other small engines will be the number one source of air pollution in California by 2020.
  3. “It’s no one’s business what I do on my private property.” 
    If you live in a city, your property is surrounded by other properties.  More and more people work from home. Children and retired people eat, sleep, play and relax in their homes. They are all impacted by the noise and pollution generated by leaf blowers. Studies show that one gas powered leaf blower can create unsafe levels of noise for a distance of up to 800 feet.
  4. “Courteous behavior on the part of lawn maintenance companies is the best solution.”
    Courteous behavior is always appreciated but the fine particulate matter and gas remains airborne even when work is paused temporarily.
  5. Any prohibition on the use of leaf blowers will put people out of work.”
    There is no evidence that using hand tools or the occasional electric blower will put people out of work.
  6. “Electric blowers are not powerful enough to do the job.”
    This has been proven to be untrue and in fact many professional lawn care organizations are converting to electric battery powered equipment which has much lower noise and which create no toxic emissions. Find Portland area gas-free maintenance companies here.